Titles such as Nuts and Zoo paint a picture of women as permanently, lasciviously, uncomplicatedly available. The images they use and project reinforce a very narrow conception of beauty and a shallow approach towards women. They celebrate thrill-seeking and instant gratification without ever allowing any thought of responsibility towards others, or commitment, to intrude.
Well said that man! So what, I ask, to my pantomime horror, is this?
GQ, a modern men’s magazine targeted at younger males, is plugging a book of interviews by its editor with dear David Cameron. It’s also plugging photos of “hot models” with “impossibly toned bodies in impossibly small underwear” in the latest issue. The GQ website has a presumably vast repository of such pictures, marketed under the slogan “So many babes, so little time”.
Beyond a quick pop about hypocrisy, there’s a bigger political point here.
I don’t read GQ, nor do I read Nuts and Zoo, which Gove singled out (if “read” is really the word). GQ is clearly more upmarket: the latest issue, alongside the babes, has articles on Barack Obama, Guillermo del Toro, what suits to wear this season, and a fancy new make of mobile phone. Nuts and Zoo, though, are unashamedly crass. Think of the Daily Star on speed. The non-babe articles seem to be mainly sport- or TV-related (with, I’ll wager, shorter and fewer words than the GQ pieces).
As so often happens when the Tories talk about social ills, there’s a subtext of class. Nuts and Zoo mainly get working-class readers, GQ middle-class ones. Are we worried only about the moral and social corruption of the former? In fact, I’d say a title like GQ does far more to make soft porn acceptable than do its more obvious, downmarket cousins. It carries (comparatively) sophisticated pieces so that it can get away with its “cast of sizzling supermodels”.
It gives young men the opportunity to indulge their baser instincts while still feeling socially respectable. A bit like Cameron’s project to decontaminate the Tory brand.